Matthew 7:15

A Tree and Its Fruit

15 1"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are 2ravenous wolves.

Matthew 7:15 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets
Or false teachers; for not such who pretended to foretell things to come, but such who set up themselves to be teachers of others, are here meant; see ( 2 Peter 2:1 ) . It may be queried, whether our Lord has not respect to the Scribes and Pharisees, who sat in Moses's chair, and taught, for doctrines, the commandments of men? and of whose doctrines he elsewhere bids men beware: for whatever plausible pretences for holiness and righteousness might appear in them, they were repugnant to the word of God, and destructive to the souls of men; such as their doctrines of free will, justification by the works of the law, the traditions of the elders since it follows,

which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous
for these "loved to go in long clothing", ( Mark 12:38 )

(tyljb) , in a garment which reached to the feet, and was made of the wool of sheep. The Babylonish garment Achan saw and stole, Rab says {r}, was (atlymd aljuya) , a garment called "melotes": which is the very Greek word the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews uses for sheep skins, persecuted saints wandered about in, ( Hebrews 11:37 ) and the gloss upon the place, in the Talmud referred to, says, that this was (yqn rmu lv tylj) , "a talith", or "garment of pure wool"; and Jarchi F19 says, that

``it was the way of deceivers, and profane men, to cover themselves, (Mtyljb) , "with their talith", or long garment, "as if they were righteous men", that persons might receive their lies.''

All which agrees very well with the Pharisees, who would have been thought to have been holy and righteous, humble, modest, and self-denying men; when they were inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity, of rapine, oppression, and covetousness; and, under a pretence of religion, "devoured widows' houses". Though, it seems, by what follows, that Christ has respect, at least also, to such, who bore his name, and came in his name, though not sent by him, and called him Lord, and prophesied, and cast out devils, and did many wonderful works in his name; who, that they might get the good will and affections of the people, clothed themselves, not in garments made of sheep's wool, but in the very skins of sheep, with the wool on them, in imitation of the true prophets, and good men of old; pretending great humility, and self-denial, and so "wore a rough garment to deceive", ( Zechariah 13:4 ) when they were inwardly greedy dogs, grievous wolves, of insatiable covetousness; and, when opportunity offered, spared not the flock to satisfy their rapacious and devouring appetites. The Jews speak of a "wolfish humility"; like that of the wolf in the fable, which put on a sheep skin.

``There are some men, (says one of their F20 writers,) who appear to be humble, and fear God in a deceitful and hypocritical way, but inwardly lay wait: this humility our wise men call (tybaz hwne) , "wolfish humility".''

Such is this our Lord inveighs against, and bids his followers beware of.


F18 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 41. 1.
F19 In Zech. xiii. 4.
F20 Abarbinel Nachalath Abot, fol. 192. 1.

Matthew 7:15 In-Context

13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

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Cross References 2

  • 1. Matthew 24:11, 24; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:16; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; Acts 13:6; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1
  • 2. Ezekiel 22:27; Acts 20:29; [Micah 3:5; John 10:12]
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